Dear Mark: Fiber, Fat and Fasting

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Dear Mark,

I have two questions. My first regards training and rest days. Simply, how many days of complete rest should I take for an entire week? I someone who’s been overweight for most of his pre-teen and teenage life, and who was able to lose that excess weight at 17 (I’m 20 now). My current goal is to “look fit” (and be healthy), which primarily entails eliminating the stubborn fat on my body that have refused to go away. If I’m doing three days of high-intensity interval training, for around 15-20 minutes per day, and three days of 1 hour lifting, for a total of 6 days per week with one day of rest, is that doing too much?

Secondly, where do I get most of my fiber on a primal blueprint diet if most high-fiber vegetables can only be attained sparingly (I’m a poor college student)? I’ve been looking around your site for the answer, and the only thing I’ve read mentioned in passing was flaxseed. If that is your suggestion, where can I buy it? I couldn’t find it in the cereal aisle of my local grocer.

First off, because you are still trying to lose the “stubborn” fat, I just need to remind you (and other readers) that 80% of your body composition results will come from PB-style eating. Yes, you still have to exercise to build or maintain muscle and to stimulate some added fat-burning enzymes, but you don’t want to fall into the common habit of thinking you must exercise nearly every day to burn off stored fat.

OK, having said all that, the amount of rest you need depends on your work load and perhaps your level of fitness if you’re transitioning to a new exercise routine. Given the program described, I’d say your one “day off” could be completely adequate. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to add another day off if you feel like you’re not recovering between workouts. Listen to the signals your body is sending, and know the message might be different from week to week depending on sleep and stress levels, etc. If you choose to take that extra day, you can always use it to incorporate some low to moderate level “life” activity: hike, bike ride, kayaking, a game of ultimate Frisbee, or even some energy-intense house projects. Your training won’t take a hit if you take an extra day or two off. And if you’re eating well, your fat-burning won’t suffer at all.

Farmers' Market

As for the fiber question, I’ve often said that dietary fiber is over-hyped by the media. Truth be told, we don’t really need that much beyond what we get from eating vegetables and a few fruits each day. (People get themselves into trouble when they eat processed foods and throw off their body’s systems.) A natural, whole foods diet just doesn’t require “whole grains,” despite all the hoopla. Grok and his entourage did just fine without Metamucil and multigrain cereal for breakfast. Our bodies adjust to a more natural fiber intake over time. Adequate water and plenty of exercise can also help keep the pipes running. Nonetheless, here’s a list of fiber content estimates that can help you target your produce purchases. In short, apples, pears, berries, eggplants, artichokes, and all manner of raw and cooked greens are all good higher fiber options. You’ll note from this list that dried figs, yams, and a number of cooked legumes rate among the highest in fiber (10-19 grams per serving—with varied serving size) for non-grains, but (as you know) I don’t recommend these foods as regular MDA fare because of their high carb content.

Hi Mark,

Can you give me an idea on what oils to include in my diet. They are so expensive over here in the UK. I have recently bought brazil nut oil, walnut oil, and olive oil. I want to make sure I fulfill my daily needs without overlap (due to expense). Also how much of each should I be consuming. My other question is should I work out in a fasted or non fasted state.

Oils and Fat

I’m all for incorporating nuts into the diet, and nut oils offer a healthy (and tasty) alternative to canola, corn and sunflower oil. Your choices above are fine. Nonetheless, I don’t have a specific daily requirement for any particular oil. Use what you need to for flavoring and getting enough fat in your diet. To cut the expense, I’d suggest eating more whole nuts and nut butters (homemade is cheaper and pretty darn easy). Also, tropical oils, butter and lard offer cheaper options that can also be used in cooking. Each, of course, has its own distinct flavor. Experiment with them and find the best uses/recipes for each. As long as you’re going low carb, the extra saturated fat isn’t a concern. Of course, I always suggest “cleaner” versions of any animal product (especially anything high in fat, where most toxins are found).

As for working out while fasting, I don’t see a problem with it in general. Of course it depends on how long you’ve fasted, too. If you ate last night and work out this morning without eating, there’s not only no problem there, there may be a benefit in terms of fat burning if today’s workout is a long slow one, or in term of growth hormone if today’s is a short, intense workout. As for working out during a longer planned fast, if you’ve done it before and felt fine, I wouldn’t recommend necessarily dropping your workout during fasting days. You might want to dial back the intense training on extended fasts, though. Or if you’re new to fasting you might want to keep your exercise on those days low to moderate and save the heavy stuff for the rest of the week.

Ironically, whereas I would often recommend not eating immediately after a workout, if you have NOT fasted prior (in order to maximize growth hormone), it might be beneficial in this case to “break” your fast following hard resistance training sessions. In the 30 minutes to an hour following a weight workout, your body has a uniquely efficient potential for protein uptake. I’d suggest taking advantage of that timing. This goes double if you’re older or are working hard for muscle mass gain. I’m basically saying don’t regularly starve yourself for a long period both before AND after a hard workout. You can eat before and starve after or starve (fast) before and eat after. Hope that all makes sense.

Thanks, as always, for your messages. Keep ‘em coming!

buck82, jfravel, Tim Morgan Flickr Photos (CC)

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending more than three decades educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates flavorful and delicious kitchen staples crafted with premium ingredients like avocado oil. With over 70 condiments, sauces, oils, and dressings in their lineup, Primal Kitchen makes it easy to prep mouthwatering meals that fit into your lifestyle.

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